Budgeting & Saving

Buy Nothing Day Challenge: Got the Urge to Spend? Save the Money Instead

Saving is the foundation for building financial stability and being able to reach any financial goal. Whether you want to buy a house, get out of debt, get married or go on vacation with your family, you’ll need to save your money.

If you feel like your budget and spending have both spiraled out of control, now is the perfect time to get back on track right before the holidays.

There are tons of tips, tricks and techniques out there will help you save money, but it’s no argument that the absolute best way to save money is to just do it. Once you commit to your cause and understand that spending money each day is not necessary, you’ll be ready to plan a no spend day, weekend, or undergo even a week without spending.

Buy Nothing Day is actually an official holiday in Canada that kicks off in the fall. There are plenty of ways to celebrate not spending no matter where you live. Here are some tips to help you get started with your Buy Nothing Day challenge.

Determine Your ‘Why’

Before you even get started with your challenge, determine why you are doing it and what you hope to get out of it. Of course your focus will be on saving more money, but do you want to change your spending habits, squeeze out more of your income to put toward debt, cut out emotional spending or work towards another goal?

Figuring out what your ‘why’ is will help give you a clear focus about what you’re doing and why it’s necessary.

Lay Down Some Ground Rules

The next step is to define your rules. While spending absolutely nothing the entire day or week would be ideal, you may have some mandatory bills due around that time or other commitments. If this will be your first Buy Nothing Day challenge, try to schedule it during a time where you don’t have any major events or commitments going on that would cause you to spend money.

Remove credit cards from your wallet, pack a lunch to bring to work and commit to doing free things with friends and family that will help you avoid having to spend money. Set stricter rules that won’t make it so easy for you. This is a challenge after all.

My rules generally consist of paying bills and putting gas in my car when I have to but spending on nothing else.

Ban Temptations

Temptations will sneak up quickly during your challenge. This is why it’s so important to define your ‘why’ and let it motivate you. To avoid being tempted to spend, ban your favorite stores and unsubscribe to all mailing lists for popular retailers. That way, you won’t be setting yourself up for failure.

[Tweet “When saving money, it’s important to define your ‘why’. It’ll keep you motivated!”]

Email coupons and offers can be super tempting so it’s best to just avoid receiving those types of emails altogether by temporarily unsubscribing (or sending them to a hidden folder). Whether your guilty pleasure is Target or Old Navy, spending all your extra money at retailers will not be helping your bottom line. The no spend challenge will maybe even help you develop a no-spending habit.

Get Creative and Involved

The Buy Nothing Day Challenge is not meant to be boring and dreadful. You can still do some of the things you love and have fun with your friends and family as long as it doesn’t require that you spend money. It will definitely call for some creativity though.

During your challenge, you might want to try out new recipes from items in your pantry and diversify your meal planning, make gifts for others, attend free neighborhood events or just invite a few people over to play cards.

Ask friends and family to join in on the challenge so you can all keep each other motivated. The creative ideas you come up with during the challenge will certainly continue to help you save more money in the future.

Calculate Your Savings

This is the best part. Since you most likely won’t have any spending to track, it should be easy to calculate how much money you were able to save along with the new money saving habits you developed during the challenge.

Imagine how much extra money you could have to build up your savings account, invest and pay off debt if you did a few no spend challenges throughout the year…

Have you ever gone a day or week without spending money?

Originally posted 2015-11-25 10:00:34.

Budgeting & Saving

30+ Things Frugal People Don’t Do

Frugality is a lifestyle. Spending less so you can live more appeals to a lot of people. Practicing frugality often gets referred to as being cheap but there are distinct differences between the two.

Being frugal involves optimizing what you have by being creative. You want to establish a lifestyle that doesn’t revolve around spending and obtaining more things to be happy. Frugal people value experiences over things but don’t sacrifice the health or welfare of themselves or their family just to save a few dollars.

[Tweet “The most important things in life aren’t things.”]

Here are 30+ things frugal people usually don’t do.

1. Fail to Implement a Budget

Budgeting accurately helps keep your finances in order. This allows you to control where your money is going. Frugal people remain frugal and spend less because they implement a budget in some shape or form to remain on track.

2. Spend Money Every Single Day

There are some days when you don’t have to spend a dime. Having a ‘no spend day’ or a ‘no spend weekend’ is a financial challenge that requires creativity and a clear focus. But the more you do it, the easier it will become.

3. Choose Wants over Needs

Frugality helps put your needs before your wants by prioritizing what is most important to you. It’s also important to be content with what you have. Greed and frugality do not mix well.

4. Have Enormous Cable Bills

Cable doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint. If you don’t even have time to watch television nor the money to fork over for a rising bill each month, try going without cable and using a cheaper alternative to watch shows and movies. Consider Netflix ($8/month), Hulu ($8/month) or Amazon Prime (with free two-day shipping on items for $99/year).

5. Waste Food

Wasting food is something everyone should try to avoid. Food is a privilege in some countries. It’s important to be mindful of what you eat and the food you buy so you can avoid waste. Throwing away food is almost identical to throwing money in the garbage. Frugal people eat all of what they buy.

6. Make Impulse Purchases Based on Emotion

Frugal people try to keep their emotions in check. They realize that retailers tend to create a sense of urgency with their products and appeal to consumers’ emotions in order to increase sales. Asking yourself if you truly need the item can bring your shopping impulses to a halt.

7. Buy Brand Name Items and Clothes to Make an Impression

The idea of buying expensive name brand and designer clothes really serves no purpose in the life of a frugal person. Clothes that look nice, fit well, and are on sale (bonus) will suffice. Why spend money over and over again if you can buy timeless?

8. Shop as a Form of Entertainment

Shopping as a habit is expensive and is usually done to fill a void. Frugal people try not to associate spending money with fun and entertainment. Frugal consumers find more enjoyable ways to lighten their mood and have fun.

9. Drive Cars They Can’t Afford

Driving a car that you can barely afford to make payments on is not a wise decision and will often leave you drowning in debt. Frugal people practically despise debt and some even drive older, more economical cars to avoid going into debt over a depreciating asset.

10. Ignore Vehicle Maintenance

Failing to maintain your vehicle and schedule timely repairs can result in having to pay thousands of dollars to fix big things later on. The frugal way to keep your car running well for longer is not to avoid maintenance and repairs, but rather budget for these expenses ahead of time. This way, you can take care of them quickly without causing financial strain.

11. Go the Most Convenient Route

Convenient practices like ordering dinner to avoid cooking it, paying for valet parking, or driving when you can walk or bike will eventually start to add up and deplete your funds. This is why frugal people try to avoid ‘convenient’ money traps.

12. Avoid a Great Deal

Frugal people don’t sit around all day staring at their bank accounts and thinking of ways to avoid spending any money. They know how to spend. They just wait for a great deal and snatch it up as fast as possible!

13. Use Credit Cards To Inflate Their Lifestyle

Using credit cards to spend more than you can afford will lead to greater money problems. You can use credit cards frugally by optimizing them for points, spending on items you would normally purchase, and paying off the balance in full each month.

14. Ignore Giveaways and Freebies

Whether you consider yourself a frugal person or not, we all should appreciate an occasional freebie or giveaway. It only takes a few moments to enter a giveaway or respond to an advertised freebie offer. It’s typically a really good return on your invested time.

15. Run the AC or Heat When It’s Unnecessary

Frugal people are all about conserving energy and keeping utility costs low. They know that paying attention to the thermostat is worthwhile. There are several things you can do to avoid running the heat too soon and running your air conditioning too much.

16. Spend a lot on Gym Memberships

A gym membership can be a great source of motivation to help you get fit. However, a lot of people don’t fully utilize their gym membership given the amount of money they spend on it each month. On the low end, a gym membership generally costs around $58 or $696 per year. According to recent studies, about 67% of people with gym memberships don’t even use them. If you don’t go to the gym at least two or three times per week all year round you could be wasting quite a bit of money.

Whether you want a gym membership or not is your preference. But it would be wise to avoid a costly one and stick to free and natural workouts that you can do out in nature or in your home. There are plenty of mobile apps and YouTube videos to utilize. Used and affordable gym equipment is usually plentiful any time of year.

17. Believe Entertainment Is Expensive

A big part of being frugal is the ability to override the myth that you need to spend lots of money on entertainment. There are tons of free and low cost ways to entertain yourself and your family. Look around your neighborhood, research events and take advantage of deals.

18. Pass up a Thrift Store or Garage Sale

Garage sales and thrift shops are thrilling for the frugal shopper. Garage sale and consignment shop items that are in good condition beat department store prices every time.

19. Try to Overcompensate by Giving out Elaborate Gifts

This ties into the idea of trying to impress others with name brands. Sometimes it’s best to make gifts and provide the recipient with something they need instead of trying to impress them with a popular brand.

20. Purchase Work Lunches Each Day

When you work for an employer (especially in an office) lunch time can be a much anticipated release or break from the work day. If you go out and buy lunch each day though, you could easily waste more than $1,000 per year. Frugal people choose not to purchase work lunches each day. They bring a lunch from home to save that $1,000 for a vacation, home repair, or a memorable experience with loved ones.

21. Buy Snacks at the Movie Theatre, or Meals at Carnivals and Fairs

It’s not about being cheap. Who really wants to spend $5 on a soft drink, $4 on a box of candy and $7 on a bowl of popcorn that might be fresh? If you don’t want to avoid going broke just by snacking, it’s best to eat a large meal before you go out and drink water if you need a beverage. This allows you to focus more on the experience rather than the overpriced, subpar food.

22. Take Luxurious Vacations Without Reward Points

Many frugal people still go on vacations. Dropping $5,000-$10,000 on a vacation each year though is often not in the question. Instead of charging vacation expenses to your credit card and returning home with debt, you can churn credit cards and use the reward points and cashback to fund your travels.

23. Ignore Their Health Needs

Maintaining an adequate amount of medical coverage is very important, no matter the cost. Eating healthy foods and going to regular check-ups can help prevent costly medical problems in the future.

24. Spend Copious Amounts of Money on Summer Music Festivals

Frugal people might wonder why someone would pay hundreds of dollars to meet up with friends, camp outside and listen to music for a weekend. That’s because there are tons of free music festivals happening all over. Although frugal people may use credit card reward points to help pay for tickets to an occasional concert.

25. Buy Brand New Electronics Each Year

Keeping up with the newest versions of electronics is exhausting, not to mention financially draining. Frugal people try to keep up with their electronics for a few years at least instead of buying something new the moment it comes out.

26. Throw Away Broken or Old Electronics

When electronics break, instead of tossing them out and creating more waste, frugal people may try to fix up and sell older electronics for cheap or sell their parts if the item is broken. A broken iPhone is still worth a lot of money.

27. Put Off Investing

Putting off investing can put you in a rough financial situation when you get older. Some people who are nearing retirement age can’t even leave work because they failed to invest and save early. Frugal people love setting money aside for their future.

28. Buy Coffee Every Morning

Drinking coffee every day is normal. But buying it each day from a café or coffee shop is a bit much for frugal people. They usually make coffee at home and buy an occasional drink at Starbucks every now and then. This saves big money.

29. Pass up a Side Hustle

People who live frugally are always looking for more ways to earn money easily on the side. This is why it’s hard for a frugal person to pass up an opportunity to use their skills to earn extra money on the weekend, help a friend or start a side business.

30. Go on a Road Trip without Bringing Food

Road trips are very fun and they’re the perfect frugal getaway for a family or group of friends. To make the trip even more frugal and save money to use for attractions and other activities, bringing food along is a must. It’s also easier than stopping the car for a snack.

31. Compromise the Safety and Welfare of Others

Frugal people don’t opt to save money at all costs; especially when it comes to the expense of other people’s health or safety. They are not like the people you see on shows like Extreme Cheapskates. Since frugal people place needs and necessities above wants, it allows them to live a life that doesn’t compromise the safety and welfare of others.

32. Care What People Think about Them

Frugal people are judged a lot and sometimes negatively referred to as ‘cheapskates’ or ‘penny pinchers’. After you’ve been frugal for a while and you see the positive affects your choices have had on your lifestyle and your bank account, it won’t matter what other people think. Frugal people always have the last laugh. While others think they are cheap or poor for bringing lunch to work each day or living a different, simpler life, they are busy saving, investing, and living a fulfilling life.

Do you consider yourself frugal? Can you think of anything else that frugal people might not do?

Originally posted 2015-11-09 10:00:15.

Budgeting & Saving

Why You Should Buy a Used Car as a Young Adult

Buying a used car might not be the most glamorous thing, especially after you graduate college and start making real money. After all, most of your coworkers probably have new cars. You may feel like your old car needs an upgrade.
However, buying a used car makes a lot more sense. Not only will you likely save money upfront, a used car will save you money in the long run. With all the new expenses you have as a young adult, save your money on your vehicle and use your savings on things you really need. Here’s why buying a used car makes the most sense for young adults.

Avoiding Depreciation

The number one reason to buy a used car is you avoid a lot of the depreciation. New cars immediately lose value the minute you drive away with them. While used cars lose value too, they don’t do it as rapidly as new cars. According to, a new car loses 11% of its value the minute you drive it off the lot!
Buying a used car allows you to save the most money without sacrificing much on quality. A 3 to 4 year old car will be significantly cheaper than a brand new car, and many of the same features in that 3-4 year old car will be similar to the new car. By purchasing a used car, you’ll save the most money and not feel the pain of immediate depreciation.

Reduce Your Insurance & Registration Costs

Car insurance for young adults usually is higher than it is for older adults. We’re seen as more of a risk. By purchasing a used car, your car insurance costs should be cheaper than for a new car. It’s a smart way for getting cheap insurance as a young adult.
The reason used cars are typically cheaper is that they’re not worth as much as brand new cars, making the cost to replace them cheaper for the insurance company. Your used car will also cost you less in state registration fees, too, as those fees are based on your car’s worth. All of these savings could add up to thousands of dollars. For that, don’t you think it’s worth by a slightly used car?

The Ability to Customize Your Car

One of the only things you used to lose when buying used versus new was the ability to personalize your car with specific upgrades. You can upgrade the navigation, the sound, the wheels… anything.
Or you can find one that’s already customized. There are many deals on cars that have already been customized. Websites such as Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader and Edmunds makes it easy to find the perfect car. With these sites, you can type in specifics and the search engine will do the rest. No longer does purchasing a used car mean you have to accept whatever comes along in your price range. If you want that sunroof, you can have it, as long as you have a little patience.
With the internet, it’s possible to still get the car of your dreams in a decent price range. If purchasing a newer car is important to you, you may have to wait a little until the right 2014 or used 2015 model comes back on the market. But you’ll eventually get what you want. No longer does buying a used car mean you have to take whatever is around in your city.
By purchasing a used car as a young adult, you’ll save money by avoiding depreciation, and paying less in fees and insurance costs. With all of the other expenses you face as a young adult, saving on transportation should be quite appealing.

Originally posted 2015-10-28 10:00:23.

Budgeting & Saving

What’s the Deal with the New EMV Cards?

Whenever I shop in Target I always have a goal to spend less than $100.

I swear, I try to limit my purchases but I always seem to find something that I need!

I think it’s the bull’s-eye that draws me in.

On a recent trip to Target, I was in the self-checkout line and I swiped my credit card. Normally, as soon as I swipe my card, I see the receipt printed a few moments later and I’m on my way; my wallet approximately one hundred dollars lighter. However, this time, the screen prompted me to insert my card. “What?” I immediately thought. What if the machine eats my card? But I inserted my card and my transaction finalized a few moments later.

You might have had a similar experience in the recent months. On October 1, the U.S. credit card industry completed the formal migration to EMV chip-enabled credit cards. When I swiped my card at Target, I was prompted to insert my card in the terminal so that the chip could generate unique, dynamic data. So what is the deal with these EMV chip cards?

The implementation of enhanced security measures such as chip-enabled cards in the United States was prompted by the new “BuySecure” initiative, put into place by executive order. Identity theft is a serious issue. In 2014, the FTC reported identity theft as the top consumer complaint with a total of $16 billion stolen from 12.7 million fraud victims in 2014. The same 2015 Identity Fraud study found that in 2014 a new identity was stolen every 2 seconds. With such a prominent issue affecting Americans, President Obama signed an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft and a component of that “BuySecure” initiative includes implementation of the new chip technology.

Discover has created an EMV resource center to answer questions that you might have as a consumer. Here are a few questions that I had and answers that I learned from Discover.

How does the security of a chip-enabled card compare to a non-chip card?

  • The new chip cards have an extra layer of protection against fraud at point of sale. If you don’t have a chip card, or the merchant you are shopping at isn’t EMV ready, your magnetic strip card will still work the same way as it always has.

How does the chip-enabled card work?

  • Using a chip card is simple. At chip-enabled terminals, consumers can insert their cards into a terminal and follow the guided instructions on the terminal screen. In the case that a retailer does not have chip-enabled terminal, consumers can use the magnetic stripe on their card as they’ve always done before.

How are EMV cards more secure?

  • The microchip in chip cards generates unique, dynamic data every time a consumer completes a transaction in a store, making it harder for fraudsters to collect their card information. In turn, it is more difficult for hackers to copy and use credit card information.

While it might be an adjustment at first, ultimately, the EMV card technology aims to make each transaction more secure. And even though the technology can’t cure me of my Target shopping addiction, or change how much I spend on each visit, at least I will feel more secure knowing that those purchases are my own.

This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-10-26 10:00:30.

Budgeting & Saving

4 College and Education Related Tax Benefits

Investing in your education is important even though tuition costs keep climbing. College tuition, fees, and room and board average $42,419 at private institutions and $18,943 at public institutions, according to College Board.

While it can be difficult to keep higher education costs down, there are plenty of tax benefits to be gleaned.

Here are 4 college and education tax related benefits every student should be utilizing:


During college I was able to benefit a lot from education related deductions. On behalf of yourself, your spouse or your dependent, you may be able to deduct qualified education expenses paid during the school year. This deduction can reduce the amount of your income that is subjected to tax by up to $4,000 if you’re single and can’t be claimed as a dependent.

If you graduate college with student loans and your modified adjusted gross (MAG) income is less than $75,000 (if filing single) or $150,000 (if filing jointly), you may receive special a special deduction. You can get student loan interest deducted from your taxes.

Tax Credits

Education tax credits can help reduce the amount of income tax you have to pay each year you’re in school. If the credit reduces your tax to less than zero, you may actually get a refund. Hooray for tax refunds!

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly known as the Hope scholarship credit), can be claimed in tax-years from 2009 through 2017. The credit applies to educational expenses including tuition, fees, course materials and more. Expenses related to room and board, transportation, insurance, and medical expenses don’t qualify unfortunately. But students can receive a tax credit up to $2,500. 40% of the credit is refundable. To learn more about this specific tax credit, visit

The Lifetime Learning Credit is another tax credit that can be utilized school expenses while in attendance. The credit helps students pay for undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses. The credit is limited to $2,000. However, it can be used for as many years as enrolled. To learn more about eligibility requirements for the Lifetime Learning Credit, click here.


Scholarships are great because even though they’re competitive, you don’t have to pay them back. A fellowship can also be earned. It’s similar to a scholarship. But it’s paid to a student to pursue a certain type of research.

I earned quite a few various private and public scholarships during college. Sometimes I got worried that the money I desperately needed to pay for college was going to get taxed and counted as income. The best thing about scholarships and fellowships is that they can be tax-free if they meet the following conditions:

  • You are pursuing a degree at an eligible institution.
  • You use the scholarship or fellowship funds to pay for qualified educational expenses.

[Tweet “Scholarship money is tax-free as long as you use the money for education!”]

To learn more about tax-free scholarship and fellowship requirements, check out this information from the IRS.

College Savings Plans

Qualified tuition programs, also known as 529 plans, are maintained by states. They allow you to either prepay tuition or contribute to a special savings account for future expenses. Either option is convenient. However, consider opportunity cost before you prepay for education. Earnings in a 529 plan are tax-free when invested and tax exempt when withdrawn for qualified higher education expenses. Qualified expenses include tuition, room and board, fees, books, supplies and materials.

State sponsored college savings plans are very popular for parents. While contributions are not deductible, there is also no income limit for contributors. This is an option everyone can consider.

Getting a head start on college prep is a great idea. No one enjoys last minute panic. Use one or many of these programs and your finances will thank you.

Higher education may always be pricey. But these tax benefits will definitely help. For further assistance, see our Ultimate Tax Guide and consult a tax professional.

How have you/how will you pay for college?

Originally posted 2015-10-14 10:00:25.

Budgeting & Saving

How to Stay Organized as a Busy College Student

Glossy college brochures show students hanging out on the quad, playing Frisbee, and staying up all night to watch movies with friends. It seems like college students have endless free time, right? Nope! With 80% of students working while attending school, and school course loads taking up approximately 12-15 hours a week, free time is rare. Add in labs, homework, and student organizations, and you start to realize college doesn’t offer up as much freedom as you may think.

However, there are certain ways a busy college student can stay organized and get everything done. With a little organizational skills, you can set up your schedule to work efficiently for you. Who knows… maybe you’ll even get some time for Frisbee!

As a Busy College Student, You Need to Study Smart

Your primary focus in college is to graduate. Therefore, studying is your number one priority. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all day studying. Think of studying in terms of quality, not quantity.

Keep your study time efficiently organized by using a planner. That may sound nerdy but nerds get good grades. A planner can be physical or digital. Make sure to keep it up-to-date.

If you’re most alert in the morning, create an early morning study block. If you’re a night owl, dedicate some late night time for studying. Listen to your body and study when it’s most alert.

Studying is your number one priority. It leads to graduation. Graduation leads to a job. A job leads to fulfillment (and money!).

Set Up Your Space Efficiently

A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. A messy room is a stressful room. A busy college student doesn’t have time for wading through clutter. At the beginning of the school year, set up your room to maximize space:

  • Put things you use often, like a backpack, purse, jacket, or keys, out where you can see them. Buy plastic hooks you can hang on the wall for these items. Hang them up as soon as you get in the room.
  • Group like items together. This means keeping your shower stuff all in one area, like on hooks inside your closet.
  • Put away your clothes. I know, it sounds like something your parents might say, but seriously: put away your clothes. You’ll do yourself a favor. By organizing your clothes in ways that make sense, you’ll save yourself a ton of time in the morning. This is awesome because you’ll be able to sleep later. That’s because you won’t have to spend all morning searching for a clean outfit!

If you share a room, it will be harder to control your roommate’s mess. However, by keeping your own space clean, you’ll be able to get what you need done. Maybe your roommate will adopt your time-saving methods.

Take Advantage of Breaks

The best way to stay organized as a busy college student is to take advantage of breaks throughout the day.  If you have 2 hours between class and your job, run a load of laundry. You’ll likely have a free washer and dryer available in the middle of the day. That will save time on the weekend when everyone is arguing over the washing machines.

Have an hour between lunch and your next class? Grab a friend who’s in the same class as you and have a quick study session. You can help each other. You both get a free tutor.

If you work a relaxed on-campus job, use the quiet time to review your class notes. When I worked at my school’s library, I was able to read a book in between helping patrons. I brought whatever book we were reading in English class.

Capturing free time during the day is a fantastic idea. It may even lead to wide-open weekends. That can lead to way more college fun!

Crib Notes:

Staying organized as a busy college student doesn’t have take up much time.

Establish good study habits. Create a living space conducive to living and studying. Use your free time efficiently. These 3 tips will lead to graduation and a fulfilling life thereafter.

Good luck and have fun!

Originally posted 2015-10-12 10:00:03.